The Four Realms of Hakuda (白打の四領域, Hakuda no Shiryōiki; literally "Four Areas of the White Hits") denotes the sequence of progression in training within Hakuda. Each of the four are extensively broad as they encompass the entirety of Hakuda's tenets and teachings. They are arranged in a series of succession, with the road to mastery defined as passing through the realms, but each realm contains nearly infinite degrees of substance that a martial artist must uncover, even as they pass on to the next realm. In truth, one never finishes their Hakuda training; the path before them is eternal.
Ultimately, the Hakuda Realms are founded upon the idea of Ki development, which is the reason behind their respective names. As they journey through the four realms, Hakudaka come to harmonize their Ki with themselves and with others, draw power from the Ki around them, transform and define their own Ki, and even transcend Ki altogether. However, one should always remember that being in a higher realm does not necessarily suggest superiority in the martial arts. One that achieved relative mastery within the first realm alone can overwhelm one that has acquired competency within the first two realms. Each realm is infinitely vast in the martial art wisdom and ability they encompass. Becoming a Grandmaster is no ordinary feat, it is a path which many deem impossible, for even as they reach the top of the mountain before them, they will find themselves at the peak and staring out at an entire mountain range, each larger than the last.
Known to most of the martial arts world, the first realm of Hakuda is known as Kiai (気合, literally "Energy Joined/Unified"). It is the only one of the four realms which is common knowledge, even to the martial art novices, though its true meaning is often misunderstood or mistaken. It is believed that it simply refers to a sort of energetic yell done in order to rouse up one's spirit in order to strengthen one's movements while also to provoke and impose intimidation on their opponent. In truth, however, the realm of Kiai denotes a harmony achieved over one's self and their own power. Obtaining harmony within one's self is a crucial tenet of martial arts, allowing for a Hakudaka to actually learn how to block interference from the outside, such as in the form of illusions, or even to weather through reality alteration. The majority of Hakuda disciplines, spanning from the completion of Hakuda Kihon, through the conditioning disciplines and into the methods of striking and responding, all start with the tempering of Kiai.
As a martial artist goes through their training, they learn to wield their own internal power with greater ease. Hakudaka first practice Kiai by learning to handle their spiritual power and spiritual pressure. Tempering it to strengthen their attacks, enclosing themselves within its confines to strengthen defense, and so on, are all beginning aspects of Kiai. Their reiatsu can act and follow the motions of the body. They can eventually perform feats similar to the Getsuga Tenshō freely simply by waving their hand. But this is but the start of harmony, for what it truly means to gain a joining of energy is to be able to have it behave and follow intention itself. One who further trains their Kiai can even control their reiatsu just with a glare. It can serve as a form of attack without the body needing to act. One common example is to form several fists out of spiritual pressure to pummel an opponent into submission. Taken even further, strikes and actions follow intention. One's energy will act based solely on the martial artist's intentions, and as such, it can manifest and behave in various ways depending upon the martial artist's intentions. For instance, reiatsu can be designated to flow peacefully rather than to be brought out as a crushing pressurized force, or perhaps it is molded together into afterimages and duplicates of the martial artist themselves. This would be a staple of Reiatsu Kimeru, which resides within the realm of Kiai.
Kiai is applied differently depending upon the martial artist. It is through Kiai that the advanced hybrid technique of Shunkō becomes possible. When harmony of energy is attained, flowing Kidō into the body becomes a possible feat without causing the body severe harm. Once the power is infused into the body, and melds with the reiryoku, it can burst outwards into the Shunkō form. It is because many people are unfamiliar with the refined teachings of Hakuda that they believe this is the height of Hakuda, but in truth, it is actually a height of Kiai alone. Many Hakudaka within the Seireitei are ignorant to the truth that lies beyond the first stage, believing that simply mastering their reiatsu and body movements is enough to master Hakuda. Sadly, however, this is true for the majority of Hakudaka, with only a small few ever realizing what lays beyond Kiai.
One of the center goals of Kiai is to acquire competency over "Ki Interaction" (対話, Ki no Taiwa; literally "Dialogue of Ki"). Simply put, it is the method of altering the way the Hakudaka's Ki interacts, not only within themselves, but with the Ki of others around them. Changing the way spiritual power is interpreted is perhaps the most basic form of Ki Interaction, for more advanced Hakudaka can alter the physical manifestation of their energy as well. Rather than to pressure the opponent through intimidation with sakki (殺気, "murderous ki"), they can smash the opponent with their energy, cut them in twine, provide resistance, and so on, with the possibilities being limitless. This often deals with the sixty-four changes, in that Hakudaka can invoke any of the sixty-four behaviors, even stacking them together, and channel them through their Ki in order to manifest a variety of different phenomena with their own energy.
It is said that mastery over Kiai, at least to the degree at which it becomes possible to invoke the realm of Kiroku, begins to take root when a martial artist manages to access their Shinuchi.
- "Power does not come from your own effort or what you put out. It's all about how you're felt, how one perceives you. You can see this all throughout history; even the weakest individuals possessed tremendous power over others by the way people feared and misunderstood them. They played on their emotions and perceptions to make themselves come across as powerful. Power is all about how you are perceived, how you are understood, and we martial artists make use of that. No matter if something does not exist, if the opponent is made to believe it exists, the effect itself will be real. If our Ki, our "existence", is made to be perceived as something else, then it will really become that something else. Even if I do not possess the ability of fire, if my punch forces the opponent to understand that strike as something that will burn them, then it will burn them. It is because we make ourselves come across as "fire" that "fire" is what will happen. That is the basis of Kiroku, the "power" of "Ki". As I've said before, martial arts is built on deception, and at this level, you make the deception itself real."
- —Seireitou Kawahiru
The second realm is known as Kiroku (気力, "Power of Ki"). According to Seireitou Kawahiru, Hakuda is power born from experiences. Unlike the other crafts, which deal more with self-study or with a partner, the martial arts are about drawing strength from the life that one lives. They should view everything that they experience, from both other people and the world itself, as a means of further developing their abilities. In other words, even if they take from other sources in order to grow stronger, the power that they develop as a result of those experiences is something that they manage to achieve through their own efforts. It becomes a power all their own. As spoken by the martial artist, Morihei Ueshiba, one must "study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything - even mountains, rivers, plants and trees - should be your teacher." This is the basis of Kiroku.
Unlike Kiai, where all living beings reside, a martial artist must awaken to this second realm of Ki consciousness. Kiroku is about an understanding of Ki, and therefore, to trigger ascension into this realm, it must start with the understanding of one's own Ki; an understanding of the person they are, and thus, their soul. They must come to terms with both the balance and the the chaos that composes them. Opening their heart to the harmony and the darkness through martial arts is how a Hakudaka manages to reach Kiroku. It is for that reason that an awakening to the second realm often occurs through an emotional experience over the course of training. One cannot awaken to Kiroku without a sufficient level of mastery within Kiai, for one must first unify and reconcile the scattered elements that compose their existence before attempting to understand them. It is for this reason that Shinuchi is a state achieved through an emotional trigger.
- "Visualization. That's the strongest ability afforded to us Hakudaka. The power to override phenomenon. Martial artists are those that resist, we fight reality at all times in order to surpass our limits. Normally, that fighting spirit only serves as a means of support, guiding the body to forge ahead during training and battle. But when mind, body, and soul are unified together as a single entity, that fighting spirit born in the soul is bridged by the mind to the body, and manifests through the body as a physical power that overwrites reality."
- —Botan Nakandakari describing Kiroku to Minato and Hinata.
The basis of Kiroku revolves around the notion of a Hakudaka's will and thoughts actively manifesting through their body as physical phenomena, which struggle against and override existing phenomena. Simply put, it is a power born of visualization, in which a Hakudaka takes that which they have learned by understanding the Ki around them, drawing power from that Ki, based on what they can imagine in their minds, eventually adopting it as their own strength. The idea is to make the body behave, adopt, and even change certain aspects of itself in accordance with the visualization within their minds that is born from the power of Ki being reflected in their soul. According to Seireitou, Kiroku is the idea of "overriding reality through martial arts", or rather, to "overwrite reality with one's fighting spirit". When instructing Minato Kuramoto and Hinata Kusuhana, Botan described the concept of Kiroku as the mind and soul channeling Ki from various sources, such as knowledge, experiences, feelings, and imagination — extracting the desired notions from them — and then materializing it as a physical phenomena through the body, becoming something that is referred to as "incarnation" (化身, shin'i; literally "intent of the heart"). This is made possible by Kiai, the former realm, which focused on the idea of unifying the mind, body, and soul. Through Kiroku, this unification is crucial, for the soul responds to the Ki the martial artist interacts with, the mind understands and visualizes it, and then the body induces and manifests the phenomena. Therefore, Kiroku is useless without Kiai, and it is here that a Hakudaka can see the connection between the first two realms. As Seireitou had later explained, the Kiroku starts as a deception made real in that the enemy is made to perceive the Ki being recreated through Kiroku as something that is genuinely a part of the martial artist, and as a result, the effect becomes real. It infringes the will of the Hakudaka onto reality, utilizing that strong visualization channeled through the body as a way to invoke a change onto the martial artist and their environment. Before long, it is no longer a deception, but simply the act of willing the desire to make something happen a reality through Hakuda.
Of course, like all Hakuda disciplines, the Kiroku can be further refined through training and battle experience. It can reach a point, as demonstrated by Seireitou, where the process happens so instantaneously that the incarnation appears to manifest all on its own; a skill demanding mastery of Kiai, in which the Hakudaka can move without depending on thought for action. Such martial arts can often be perceived as mysteries, an effect occurring without a conceivable cause, as if the Hakudaka overrides causality itself.
Awakening Kiroku can be considered both a blessing and a curse, as it can serve as a valuable ally for a Hakudaka but also a double-edged sword, due to the dangers such a concept can present. As an ability which draws power from the heart, and therefore both the mind and soul, a Hakudaka is vulnerable to the dark thoughts and intentions residing with them; in other words, they are susceptible to their inner darkness. In the martial arts, there are said to be two kinds of individuals: those who draw strength from the desire to overcome their flaws and trauma, and those who give in to their darkness to draw a sort of dark strength. The latter tend to be those that surrender to emotions such as rage, anger, and sorrow. By focusing on that despair and trauma within them, that darkness can manifest as a tremendous and frightening power through Kiroku, resembling something that is often remarked as "more evil than a Hollow", with Botan mentioning that it invokes the sensation of falling into a void of sheer despair. Kiroku being used in this way can allow Hakudaka to create powerful incarnations based on those thoughts and intentions, but because of this, they leave themselves vulnerable to the worst parts of their own selves. This is a dangerous path for martial artists, for the more they use Kiroku to draw power from the trauma in their hearts, the closer their minds gets to that darkness as a result of Kiai unification, eventually leading to them being swallowed up by their own darkness. Because Kiroku makes these phenomenon real, it is not impossible for Hakudaka to even invoke something similar to Hollowfication through their martial arts.
- "When the soul is opened, it is able to accept the spirit of others. This is something beyond the realm of power. Once you're here... you start to see it: the core of martial arts."
- —Saku Hashira
The third realm is known as Kihaku (氣迫, "Spirit of Ki").
In the beginning, a martial artist masters form and technique. They take from all sources and allow everything around them to serve as their teacher. By then mastering themselves, only then can they draw upon external concepts and embody them. From what they have learned and experienced, they make this strength their own. This is referred to as "obeying" (守, Shu) form and then "detaching" (破, Ha) from form, with form being defined as existing concepts that a martial artist personifies and manifests through themselves. However, at the level of Kihaku, one "transcends" (離, Ri) form and technique, becoming their own definition of martial arts rather than simply embodying a concept.
It demands a soul that has opened itself to the greatest level of change, but because of that, the realm of Kihaku boasts danger to those who have not gained sufficient mastery over Kiai and Kiroku.
The fourth and final realm is known as Hibiki (響, "Echo"). From what is understood, the idea of Hibiki comes from the concept of an echo; more specifically, the idea that all of martial arts is an echo stemming from the beginning of humanity. Martial arts is the crystallization of humanity's efforts to grow, learn, and advance, progressing forward as both a species and as individuals. As a species born no different than other animals, humanity resisted its fate and fought against its inborn nature so as to grow and evolve into the entity they are today. The idea is that the realm beyond Kihaku, which deals in the essence of an existence, of Ki itself, echos back to the "origin" (源, gen). All of Hakuda, therefore, is said to be an effort to follow the echo back to the starting point, and through the final realm, recreate that origin within themselves. This suggests a new reality will be born, an entirely new existence apart from the world, that echos back humanity's efforts as it resists the world itself, but the very idea of it is regarded as an impossible ideal. It is a shared belief that the realm of Hibiki is the only one among the four realms of Hakuda that can never actually be realized. One can only pursue it endlessly but can never truly reach such a level. Therefore, it exists solely as a goal for martial artists. The concept of Hibiki is personified in Hakuda Musuhi, the sole discipline belonging to this realm.
Behind the Scenes
According to the author, a simple way to understand the Kiai realm is that it is identical to Nen training in the anime and manga series, Hunter x Hunter. Similarly, the Kiroku realm shares several similarities with the principles of the Incarnate System as seen in the two light novel series, Sword Art Online and Accel World.